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Old 01-29-2010, 03:15 PM
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gunzorro gunzorro is offline
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Vermilion Test

Taking up Jim T (Termini) on his suggestion to do a test with various vermilions and amber.

Here's the first stage, the layout. Each paint is pulled down in a line using a palette knife, with a drop of 25% amber varnish at the bottom (before mixing into this bottom area of the paint line).



The paints used are Blockx and Harding genuine vermilion on the left, which look virtually identical, although the Harding is using linseed and the Blockx is using poppy (as far as I know).

The middle is the Studio Products, followed to the right by Doak and Blue Ridge. These three look vitually identical -- we know the Blue Ridge pigment comes from Doak, and we know Doak is now supplied by Studio Products for mixing paints. The question then begs: are these three samples all the same pigment, and if so, is it genuine vermilion? We won't have an answer to that question unless someone can furnish chemical analysis. (any offers?)

The top section of these lines will remain the paint as it came from the tube with the uppermost section covered from light, and the next section exposed. The middle area will have a thinned coating of amber varnish, and possibly a second (or third) of different varnish like Soluvar.

I'll present lightfastness results in 3 to 6 months.

As of now, the test is set up to dry for a few weeks before the varnish coats.
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Old 01-29-2010, 04:43 PM
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Re: Vermilion Test

Wow Jim,

Thanks for this undertaking! This is very interesting!
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Old 01-29-2010, 08:09 PM
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Brian Firth Brian Firth is offline
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Re: Vermilion Test

Looks good Jim. I can say that I tested Natural Pigments genuine vermilion with a coat of Soluvar and it didn't protect it from darkening at all.

Also, Blue Ridge does not get their vermilion pigment from Doak, they used too, but no longer get anything from Doak. So, unless your Blue Ridge vermilion is an old batch, then it is definitely a cadmium mix which they admit to using now.

My money is on all three on the right being cadmium. One easy test is to smell the wet paints for the tell-tell metallic smell of selenium that is characteristic of cadmium red paints. Genuine vermilion doesn't have that smell, but all my cadmium reds do and so does the RGH, Blue Ridge (old version with Doak pigment) and Doak vermilion, leading me to a pretty confident assessment of them all being cadmium. Of course if they darken, then we know they're real! :P

Look forward to the results.
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:50 PM
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Einion Einion is offline
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Thanks for going to the trouble of doing this Jim

Will look forward to the results, but I'll make a small wager now that the varnish won't prevent the problem.

Einion
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Old 02-01-2010, 01:18 AM
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Re: Vermilion Test

Hi Jim
Why not to add Vasari's Cadmium-Vermilion to your test.
ly
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Old 02-01-2010, 01:34 AM
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Re: Vermilion Test

ly -- What a great idea!! I think there might just be enough room on an edge to add the Vasari. I'll try to get to that.
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:04 AM
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Re: Vermilion Test

I'd love to see the Holbein vermilion added as well.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:36 AM
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Re: Vermilion Test

Jim, I just have to say the cost of this test makes me cringe a little. But I will be interested to see how the test plays out. But do you really see an advantage of using vermilion over cad red light?
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Old 02-01-2010, 11:37 AM
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Re: Vermilion Test

SP looks very chromatic, may be handy
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Old 02-01-2010, 12:05 PM
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Re: Vermilion Test

Co
Quote:
Originally Posted by wetbob
SP looks very chromatic, may be handy

Yes, it does look very chromatic. I have been eyeing the Studio Products Vermilion for quite some time. Actual vermilion is not interchangeable with cadmium red light, or any cadmium red. Most people who try both paints, will quickly understand the difference. That is not to say that cadmium red is a bad color. Not at all, and in fact cadmium red is a marvelous color, but it is not the same tool in the tool box. Cadmium reds are great in mixes, but better when white is not mixed with it, as it tends to go pink. Actual vermilion doesn't lose as much chroma as its value increases. To see the difference in its use, simply go to the museum, and look at any number of old master produced portraits. Look in the cheeks, and then look at some modern portraits employing the use of cadmium red. The color is much different. Vermilion although high in chroma appears to have a more earth color appearance, at least in my opinion. I would add that it is well documented that vermilion was successfully used centuries ago. The trip to the museum as I mentioned above, is all the proof that is necessary. If all applications of this paint resulted in blackening, we would see thousands of portraits, in museums all over the world, that looked like someone rubbed coal on the cheeks of the sitters, as that sat having their portraits painted, centuries ago. This simply isn't the case.

I hope that the lightfast tests show that this product can be used successfully. Considering that every tool in the painters tool box helps, I don't understand how I could think otherwise.
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Old 02-01-2010, 12:05 PM
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Re: Vermilion Test

I tend to like the Blockx version Jim. Thanks for this test. It came at the right time. Because I'm shopping around for Vermillion. I currently have it in Rembrandt. But I'm betting that Blockx will surpass the others.

I'm considering Old Holland. But will wait for your advice.
Is Vermillion doomed to darken no matter what brand or medium used?
And how long does it take for it to show that?

Kal
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Old 02-01-2010, 02:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Termini.
Most people who try both paints, will quickly understand the difference.
There is indeed a difference, as there is between nearly any two different pigments of similar masstone colour - this can even be appreciated quite well in digital photos. But even individual examples of Cad Red can vary a surprising amount and some are a great deal closer in mixing character to Vermilion than others (e.g. being more chromatic in tint as well as having a similar change in hue from the masstone). Comparisons have been posted here on WC that show this quite well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Termini.
Cadmium reds are great in mixes, but better when white is not mixed with it, as it tends to go pink.
Tints of Cad Red do vary but more commonly than not they don't go pink in tint if I understand what you mean by pink here. And besides, isn't this one of the very characteristics that the tints of Vermilion are prized for?
Quote:
Originally Posted by georgeoh
Light cadmium red is said to replace the hue of vermilion or cinnabar, but tints of vermilion or cinnabar are pink, and hence highly prized by the Old Masters, then are tints of cadmium red, which are orange-red.

...

Termini makes a point above about Vermilion not being interchangeable with Cad Red Light and much the same could be said about any two pigments of roughly the same colour - their individual characteristics makes each one unique (some more so than others) and therefore one can't be switched in for the other... only in practice the painter can do this, and often with relative ease.

What matters at the end of the day is not what each individual paint can do but what the palette as a whole can achieve. Once we get down to practical usage how a single pigment works in less critical than the finished colours that are needed in the painting - and there are many different routes to many of the same colours, using both direct and indirect means.

This is why Alizarin Crimson for example can be replaced by painters looking for an alternative that's more lightfast. Now some of the alternatives are closeish so an easy swap-out but some are a very different colour, but if done right this switch is accomplished without any change being apparent in their work.

Back to the colour at hand, Vermilion/Cinnabar is often used in master works in major collections that have undergone repair or retouching and this is more proof of the general principle, if it were needed: as these are now generally done using another red (a Cad Red often) and those retouchings can be impossible to detect, even when you know where they are.

With regard to historical use, we need to bear in mind that the paints used historically could be quite different from what's commonly available today. Plus their methods might not be the same, and the other palette constituents are very rarely the same as used in the present day; all of these things could and would affect things. It is undeniably true that Vermilion has held up well overall over the centuries but quite apart from earlier examples being mostly Cinnabar - and not the synthesised Vermilion - there is more than one way of making the pigment and in addition to other differences it is argued that it results in varied ageing characteristics as well.

Personally I think while permanence questions are important (because of the many failures shown in commercial Vermilion paints of current vintage) what's most at issue is whether there's enough of a difference to justify the cost. And since it can be substituted for without anything being lacking I think this makes the decision very easy indeed.

There are a couple of threads from a few years ago on making a "synthetic Vermilion" if anyone wants to more closely match the tints of Vermilion with a Cad Red whose tints are duller than you'd like. It's really very simple.

Einion
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Old 02-01-2010, 04:14 PM
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Re: Vermilion Test

Cornell's library has a pdf on Vermilion. >>
http://www.library.cornell.edu/prese...asEastern1.pdf
from that...

Technical Examination Techniques/ Instrumental Analysis Techniques
Particles are anisotropic and appear to turn darker with pleochroism. Particles exhibit birefringence and some crystals exhibit characteristic undulose extinction. With the red compensator in the microscope they appear colours other than red and their polarisation colours are bright orange to red/brown depending upon their manufacture. Semi-transparent under infra-red, yellow-brown in false colour and purple-blue under UV light. When heated it sublimes at about 580oC and at higher temperatures it burns with a bluish flame. Insoluble in alkalis.

...heating then may be a quicker and surer way to test for purity?

I hope this helps.
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Old 02-01-2010, 04:34 PM
dcorc dcorc is offline
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Re: Vermilion Test

Before heating vermilion, you may care to consider that both vermilion and cadmium when heated to a point of burning will give off toxic vapours

Instead of playing "home chemist" it would be more appropriate to submit material for analysis to a competent independent commercial or university chemistry laboratory.

Dave
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Old 02-01-2010, 07:13 PM
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Re: Vermilion Test

Quote:
Originally Posted by alhajri
Is Vermillion doomed to darken no matter what brand or medium used?
And how long does it take for it to show that?

Kal


Apparently yes. Every CONFIRMED GENUINE vermilion tested and posted here on Wetcanvas has darkened after about 1-2 months exposure to sunlight, some faster some slower, but all darkened. Tints darkened faster. This was not alleviated by a coating of Soluvar varnish in my tests. The paints that have darkened and been documented here on WC are: all three versions from Holbein, Blockx, Michael Harding and Natural Pigments Rublev.

I am 99.9% sure that Doak and RGH are cadmium pigments, as they have a very distinct selenium odor that only cadmium red/orange pigments have. Also, they can be easily matched with a blend of cad red and cad orange. Blue Ridge no longer uses Doak's "vermilion" pigment because he discovered the same thing, it can be perfectly matched with a cad blend, and came to the same conclusion. Remember, he trained with Doak.

Lastly, the real vermilion pigments I have used are generally duller than their cadmium counterparts in both masstone and tints (all three Holbein, Natural Pigments and Michael Harding) , so I don't know what kind of vermilion Termini has used, but it makes me suspicious of the pigment's authenticity.
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